6 Things To Do Before You Get Your Dog

What do you need to know before you get your dog? That seems like a loaded statement, right? I mean how do you know what you don’t know? I admit that can bit tricky without some guidance. Today let’s dig into building your dog criteria list, which will help tremendously in your search for the right dog for you and your family. I’ll even explain what a dog criteria list is and why it’s important to create one before you get a dog. (Spoiler: This is exactly what I did when I was searching for my dog, Henry and I have to say he’s a keeper!)

a cute aussie puppy looks to be adopted while a woman considers learns about things to consider before you get your dog
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* Updated: March 13, 2024

Budget Tip:

If you're new to owning a dog, then the best tip I can give you is preparation. Know what you are getting into as much as possible before you make the commitment of being a dog parent. Finances can often surprise new dog parents. A great way to test the waters financially to see if you can handle a dog is to create a dog budget. Then set aside each month what you anticipate your dog would cost into a pet savings account. After a few months of easily doing this, you'll know you can afford a dog.

Let’s build a dog or puppy criteria list!

What is a dog criteria list anyhow?

While it’s easy to get overwhelmed and want to bring home all the adorable dogs and puppies. A criteria helps keep you on point. This is also called a dog criteria list. A criteria list lets you know what your dog should and shouldn’t be for you and your family so you don’t act spontaneously. Think of it as a shopping list. For example, if you go to the grocery store starving you want to buy that chocolate cake and all things you really shouldn’t get or don’t really meet your needs. A list will tell you what you do need and don’t. Like you won’t forget the milk with a grocery list, a dog criteria list allows you to not forget that you don’t want to potty train a cute puppy.

With this out of the way, let’s begin building your criteria list.

1. Dog vs. Puppy  

Do you know if a puppy or dog is best suited for you? Let’s look.


things to consider before you get your dog or even a puppy


  • Adorable
    There’s no doubt about it, puppies are adorable and difficult to resist.
  • Portable
    Puppies tend to be small. This is great if you plan to take your new puppy to many places.
  • Smell
    I know, who doesn’t melt for the smell of a puppy?


  • Training
    Puppies involve a lot of training, including “puppy” or “house” training (this means the puppy being able to tell you when it needs to go outside among other things).
  • Chewers
    Puppies, like babies, often want to chew anything when they are teething or growing. This can include shoes, couches, and tables to name a few.
  • Personality
    While the puppy might be cute, you may not know what he’ll be like when he’s grown. Especially, if he’s a rescue. He could be a barker, shy, high energy, etc.
  • Same page
    Patience and consistency are key with puppies, which takes a lot of time. All family members must be on the same page to have a successful outcome.
  • Family
    Some family members and puppies may not be well suited. For example, some small children, elderly, or special needs may not do as well with a puppy.

In this article, I talk about how to effectively get rid of the doggie smell in your house. 

After careful review, a puppy might fit you well: If you have lots of time and patience and you’re able to puppy-proof your home very well, then a puppy might be a good fit for you.  


a cute pug wonders what are the things to consider before get your dog


  • Potty trained
    This is always a plus to avoid potty training.
  • Past the chewing stage
    As a dog, he should be past the “puppy” stage of chewing everything. However, I still recommend all dogs have toys to chew and play with for entertainment and mind stimulation.
  • Personality
    He should have an established personality. As such, you will be able to know his personality list for your dog. This is a big one and I will discuss this one as a bonus.


  • Lifespan
    You miss out on a few years of the dog’s life.
  • Baggage
    The dog always comes with baggage you might not be aware of, but then again we all do. For example, my rescue dog’s original elderly couple died. He was separated from his longtime dog mate and spent four months in foster care.

After careful review, a dog might be a good fit for you: If you don’t want to deal with puppy training or chewing, then a dog is a great option. 

a cute corgie wonders what to do before get your dog - he'd love a playmate

2. Your dog’s environment  

To narrow your search for your doggy and find your perfect fit, it’s important to not only look at the size and location of your home but also with your housemates. This could be roommates, family members, or other furry family members. Let’s break this down a little.

* Home 

This deals with location and type of home.
The questions you want to ask yourself are:

  • Do you live in a city apartment? This would probably mean a smaller dog.
  • Or perhaps you live in a larger country house? You have more possibilities with this option.

Additionally, you want to address the climate of where you live. The questions to ask are:

  • Is it hot year-round? Think more of southern climates. If so, then you probably want to rule out heavy-coated dogs, like Huskies.
  • Is it more tepid year-round? Think northern climates. If so, then you could easily include thick-coated dogs in your search.

* Housemates

This category deals more with who you live with and who your future dog will need to interact with on a daily basis. You need to consider all house members and their needs.

Some questions to consider would include:

  • Is anyone noise-sensitive? If yes, then you may want to narrow your search by eliminating loud barkers, such as hounds.
  • Does anyone have allergies? Yes, would mean you’d want to consider hypoallergenic dogs,  like a poodle, Yorkie, or even a hybrid dog such as a labradoodle.
  • Are there people in my house that are mobility-resistant?  This will not necessarily eliminate a doggy. However, you want to make sure that the dog and person can easily move around each other. That will happen with a site meet and greet with a potential dog.

* Other animals 

Don’t forget about the other animals you currently live with, such as a cat or another dog, or even a bird, horse, or bunny, you want to make sure that your new dog will be able to “play” nice with each new family member. Again, this will be accomplished through an onsite meet and greet. 

a puppy plays with a kitten meanwhile their mom wonders what to do before you get your dog

*I always encourage a meet and greet with your new potential dog or puppy and it’s entire new family in it’s new home before any final decision is made. This can help save a lot of heartache and turmoil later on down the line. 

3. Consider the size of the dog and your home

This is not just for the size of your home but also for what you anticipate doing with your dog. Some questions to ask yourself would include:

  • Do you want a lap dog?
  • Are you getting a doggy to be a running mate?
  • Is a “purse” pup what you’re dreaming of?
lifestyle like running is something  about before you get your dog

4. Lifestyle you live and will have for your dog

What is your lifestyle? How does this fit into getting a dog? Well, you want your dog to fit into your lifestyle. Some questions you want to ask yourself for this category are:

  • How active are you?
    If you’re very active, you want a high-energy dog. If you’re not, you want a low-energy dog.
  • Are you gone from home for days and days?
    This will also impact your budget. If you’re gone from home a lot, you may want to re-think getting a doggy at this point.
  • Will you have to find someone to watch your dog?
    This means looking for a dog walker, daycare, or a family or friend to dog sit. This could also impact your budget.

In this article, I discuss how to find the best daycare for dogs.

You may also, want to check out this article about finding the best dog walker. 

  • Will you want your dog to go on trips, hikes, jogs, and other adventures with you? Some dogs are built more for hiking than others. But there is no hard and fast rule for anything. For example, generally, larger dogs are better built for hiking. However, my small cockapoo hikes like a mountain goat.
  • Do want a guard dog?
    If so, then you probably want a big dog as opposed to a smaller one. Although, many small dogs are great at alerting their owners of intruders or guests approaching.

5. Personality test

This is a big one! You want to try your best to match your personality to your new best friends’ personality.

If you are high-energy, you want a high-energy dog, like a Westie.

However, if you like hiking, running, and doing other outdoor activities, then you want a doggy that will match that personality. Perhaps a Golden Retriever will meet your checklist criteria.

On the other paw, if you are more of a homebody and prefer to crash on the couch with a good movie and book, then maybe a Shih Tzu will meet your criteria.

Most importantly, is to know how much time you will be home and have to spend with your dog. If, after review, you have only one or two hours a week, you might want to reconsider getting a doggy. Or maybe consider volunteering at an animal shelter for that one or two hours.  A dog doesn’t want to go from one confined space to another. Or worse yet, for you to surrender him in a year or two. The dog never understands. A dog, like any living being, is always a lifetime commitment.

6. Goals for your future dog 

What are your dog goals

Yes, often the dog goal step is overlooked when considering getting a doggy. However, it’s critical when thinking about adding a doggy to your family. This is a very important part of your checklist. Like any goal, it helps you to keep focused on the purpose or end result.

In this article, I discuss dog goals. I go into what they are and how to set them.

Possible dog goals
1. Companion
2. Walking partner
3. Teaching responsibility for kids
4. Protection
5. Agility training
6. Showing
7. Therapy

goals are something to consider like agility training before you get your dog

How’s your dog criteria list?

Your checklist will be as long or as short as you need. I kept mine folded up in my wallet until the day I found my new dog, Henry.

Here was my dog criteria list, when I was looking for Henry a few years ago:

1. He must be small and no more than 15 lbs. my home and car are small
2. He should be 3-4 years old, I want to enjoy most of his life with him
3. He should be very sociable, I will be taking him to a lot of places
4. He needs to be able to meet the criteria to be a therapy dog for kids (* I had a separate checklist for this)
5. He should be hypoallergenic (that is related to #4)
6. He should be ready for anything such as a walk, hike, ride, or something else
7. He should be very kid-friendly (that was mostly for #4 as well)

Related posts:

Summary of things to do before you get a dog 

While this article covers many aspects you need to think about when you start considering adding a pup of any age to your family, it is not exclusive. However, this is a summary of many of the critical areas you want to evaluate such as puppy vs. dog, environment, size, lifestyle, personality, and goals. Although keep in mind as you work through your list, it may expand as you discover more of your needs. My dog criteria checklist certainly expanded as I was creating it.

It can be a lot of work to narrow down your choices and create your dog criteria list. But in the end, it’s worth all the hard work. I promise you’ll be grateful you took these steps. I certainly am very grateful!

a cute aussie puppy looks to be adopted while a woman considers learns about things to consider before you get your dog

What do you have on your dog criteria list? What will you absolutely not cross off your dog criteria list?

About Terri Rodefer

Terri Rodefer is the founder of Tail Wag Wisdom, a blog focused on affordable pet care. She likes to say helping pet parents afford and love their animals even more, makes her tail wag. As a lifelong lover of all animals with a background in economics, biology, and marketing, allows Terri to bring a unique spin to pet care. 

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